Sunday, June 7, 2015

Travels with anti-venom

     Well, we are two weeks from the end of the semester here.  It seems to have gone by really fast this time.  I ended up going to Lae, the nearest bigger town, to do some shopping for the bookstore.  I am trying to get things stocked up for the second semester.  So, I bought lots of paper, biros (pens) and highlighters.  The church's bookstore is also carrying some new books, so bought books on Luther's Small Catechism, meaning of Baptism etc.  Fortunately several of these books are in Tok Pisin, a blessing to our students that struggle with English.

   A more unusual experience was bringing back some snake anti-venom for Braun, our local hospital.   Sometimes they are not able to get supplies through regular channels, so arrange to buy them from one of the bigger pharmacies in Lae.  I had brought things before, such as infant formula and gauze.  However, bringing back snake anti-venom (both Death Adder and multi-valent) was more complicated, since it is both delicate and expensive. It has to stay chilled, which is tricky in a tropical country in an open boat. It turned out that putting it in a small cooler inside a larger cooler does work.  Since our electricity can be erratic  I worried about the refrigerators it was stored in the two nights I had it in my procession.  I was relieved when the doctor came and took it to go into refrigerator in their pharmacy that is connected to a generator.  It was also very expensive.  It came to K30,000 which is about the same as a years tuition for 40 of our students.  It had been prepaid, so I was glad they checked my ID carefully to make sure I was the person designated to pick it up.

    This experience transporting anti-venom helped me understand the attitudes towards snakes here.  I had noticed people seemed so worried about snakes.  People try to keep the ground around their house clear so snakes have no place to hide.  I had thought the worry a bit excessive.  However, considering the difficulties with anti-venom I understand better.  I would guess more isolated areas do not have any stock.  I also understand why they wait before using the anti-venom.  People may stay in the hospital for days, being monitored for reaction to a bite.

    Time to get back to class preparation.  We don't have regular classes tomorrow as it's the Queen's Birthday.  However, I agreed to meet with some students to help prepare them for a test.


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